A fancy invitation arrives in the mail. Heavy, cream-colored paper. The state seal embossed in gold.
Would I please come to an inaugural reception for William Donald Schaefer at the Governor's Mansion next week?
Would I? You bet. I didn't enter this profession to turn down free meals.
So I start to get ready. I send my good suit (the one with the matching pants) to the dry cleaners.
And then a letter arrives. Thin, blue paper. It begins: "Dear Friend." And it's the governor telling me not to come, because he is canceling the whole shebang.
Some 900 people who had been invited to three receptions are being told to stay home and give money to charity or whatever.
The governor wants to send the right signals. He wants to be "austere." He does not want to be accused of having a good time.
So in keeping with this theme, could I make a few suggestions for the inaugural ceremony itself?
The governor will take the oath of office while wearing nothing but a barrel. This not only will symbolize his commitment to austerity but also show off his legs.
As he walks down the aisle, ragged street urchins will scatter ashes in his path. And every five yards he will stop and beat his breast three times while crying: "Woe is me! Woe is you! Woe is us!"
After the ceremony, the governor will stand behind a cart and sell apples for 5 cents each. Then he will go to bed without supper.
I also have another suggestion for the governor: Hey, lighten up! This ain't New Jersey! We still have a chance in Maryland. And gloom and doom is only going to depress people even further.
I think it is about time we all remembered the immortal words of Kevin, the Eighth Lord Baltimore, who said: "When times get tough, the tough party down!"
What this state could use is a good party, and I'm sorry the governor has decided to cancel his. I understand the symbolism of what he is doing. But parties don't have to be expensive.
I have worked out what it would cost to throw a party for 900 people at the Governor's Mansion:
1,800 S'mores -- These are the things that they taught you to make in the Scouts. They involve graham crackers and chocolate and something else that I can't remember. I'll bet we could get Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from all over the state to make them for free. Total Cost: Free.
1,800 Rice Krispie Things -- The recipe is right there on the back of the box. You stick the Rice Krispies in marshmallows, I think. And I'll bet the governor of Michigan would airlift a couple of tons of them to us from Battle Creek for nothing. Total Cost: Nothing.
500 Gallons of Kool-Aid -- Families all over the state have this stuff just sitting around and could donate it. Kids call it Bug Juice for reasons I'd rather not dwell upon. You don't even have to mix the stuff with water if you don't want to. I used to eat it right out
of the packet and look how I turned out. Total Cost: Zip.
3 crab claws -- OK, so we have to give the General Assembly
something to eat. Total Cost: $27.
Add it up and you find that a party for 900 people would cost only $27. And I hate to say it, but that is a lot less than what it cost the governor for the postage to uninvite all the people he had invited.
And if he really wanted to help out charity, you know what he could have done? He could have asked all those 900 people to bring a few cans of food with them to the mansion or drop off a few dollars in a bucket by the door.
I tend to take the governor at face value. If he says he is canceling the parties to send a message, OK. But I also happen to notice that the reception I was invited to was on a Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., which meant the governor would have had to miss "America's Most Wanted" on TV. Just a thought.
There could be another reason for the cancellation. He could have realized that I was invited by mistake and he felt he had to cancel three parties for 900 people just to keep me from coming.
But why would he do that? Just because I once referred to him in print as "Mr. Potato Head"? OK, I'm sorry. I take it back. From now on I promise to refer to him as "Gov. Potato Head."
Could it really be that, however? Or could it be that every time Hilda Mae Snoops and I are in the same room, there is a certain electricity between us, a certain undercurrent, a certain "je ne sais quoi." (French for: "hot stuff").
If that's it, I'm sorry again. But the governor doesn't have to worry. I would never steal another guy's date at a party. (On the other hand, governor, you don't own her.)
Let's not carry a grudge too far. It is not too late for the governor to change his mind. And I'd be willing to start one of those chain-phone calls telling everybody to get out their dancing shoes.
Because if there isn't going to be a reception, I'm going to send out a letter of my own. And it's going to begin: "Dear Gov. Party Pooper."